As temperatures drop this winter, it’s important to stay safe during the cold weather. Follow these steps to stay safe and prevent damage to your car and home.
1. Layer up!
Be sure to wear layers of lightweight clothing to stay warm. Cold weather can have dangerous effects on the body including frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite occurs when parts of the body freeze from prolonged exposure to the cold. Warning signs include numbness and skin that’s white or grayish-yellow and unusually firm or waxy. Hypothermia sets in when the body loses heat faster than it can produce it. There are several stages of hypothermia, but common symptoms include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, slurred speech and drowsiness.
Gloves and a hat will help prevent losing body heat. Keep in mind that children and seniors lose body heat faster than adults. As a general rule of thumb add one additional layer on kids to ensure they’re warm enough in cold conditions. Remove layers as the body warms up as sweat can aid in heat loss.
2. Heat your home safely
If using a space heater, place it on a level, hard surface and keep anything flammable at least three feet away – things such as paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs. Turn off space heaters and make sure fireplace embers are out before leaving the room or going to bed. If you are using a fireplace, use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs. Never use a stove or oven to heat your home. If using a generator be sure to use it outside and never inside the home, that includes the basement or garage.
Also remember to change out HVAC filters every month since heating systems are running constantly throughout the winter. Inspect ventilation and insulation and seal up windows that are drafty or allow cold to come in. Inexpensive plastic sheet kits can be picked up at most hardware stores. While they only last one season they do help with energy efficiency and are able to halt the cold flow of winter drafts.
One other tip relating to heating your home: Keep your thermostat set at the same temperature during both day and night. You might be in the habit of turning down the heat when you’re asleep, but drops in temperature — more common overnight — could catch you off guard and freeze your pipes. Your heating bill may be a little higher, but you could avoid a more costly repair job if your pipes freeze and burst.
3. Protect your pipes
When the forecast calls for unusually cold temperatures, let water drip from hot and cold faucets overnight. Also try keeping cabinet doors open to allow warm air to circulate in places that are usually shut off, like below sinks. If you open the cabinet doors, be sure to remove anything inside the cabinets that may pose a safety to hazard to children or pets, such as household cleaners. For exposed pipes in your attic, basement, or crawlspaces, add extra insulation around them. Keep the garage doors closed if there are water lines in the garage.
If your pipes do freeze, report the outage to your water supplier. Phone lines may be busy, but stay on the line to report it. Just because your pipes freeze also doesn’t mean the pipes have burst, so stay calm. You may be able to thaw pipes using a hair dryer starting at the pipe closest to the faucet and moving toward the coldest section. If your pipes have burst, turn off the water at the main shutoff valve and leave the water faucets turned on. Make sure that everyone in your house knows where the cutoff valve is.
4. Prepare your vehicle for winter
Winter driving conditions can turn dangerous very quickly. Cold, ice and snow can cause low visibility and make roads difficult to drive on or impassable.
Some common items that you should have on hand in the winter in your car are: antifreeze and windshield wiper fluid, a spare tire and a jack, blankets, jumper cables, cat litter or sand for traction, a flashlight, phone charger, first aid kit, snacks and a scraper.
Even before you start driving, it’s important to never warm up your vehicle in a closed garage. Also keep the gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up. When you’re on the roads don’t use cruise control in icy situations and allow more time for braking when conditions are poor. If you do start to skid, stay calm.
5. Don’t forget pets
Bring pets indoors. If they can’t come inside, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water. After walks wash and dry pet’s feet and stomach to remove ice, salt and chemicals, remembering to check for cracks in their paws or redness between toes.
Remember, if it’s too cold for you it’s likely too cold for your furry friends! Don’t leave pets alone in a car during cold weather, as cars can act as refrigerators that hold in the cold and can cause animals to freeze to death.